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Oct

Europe Needs Its Realist Past

Written on October 3, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, Foreign Policy, Security

As Europe’s troubles deepen and pose more of a threat to the vital interests of the U.S., Americans are recycling their tried and tested critiques of the European Union: It is too statist and bureaucratic. Its instincts are too protectionist. Its decision-making bodies are too slow and secretive. EU foreign policy is too naive, too feckless about defense and security. The problem with Europe, in a word, is that it is too European.

But the EU isn’t in trouble today because its leaders are “too European.” The EU is in trouble because its leadership isn’t European enough. It is time for the continent to return to the tradition of realist politics that gave rise to its modern union in the first place.

It is easy today to forget just how hardheaded the original architects of Europe’s postwar drive for integration actually were. Charles de Gaulle of France, Konrad Adenauer of West Germany and Alcide De Gasperi of Italy were conservative nationalists whose vision for Europe reflected the bitter experiences of two world wars and a failed peace.

In its origins, European unity was an unsentimental exercise in geopolitics. Germany and Italy saw it as a way to reintegrate into the world after the disaster of fascism. France saw a coalition with a defeated and partitioned Germany as a way to cement its power in Europe and to strengthen its global reach. All these governments saw European unity as a way to keep the Old World as independent as possible from both Moscow and Washington. “Europe will be your revenge,” Adenauer told de Gaulle after the humiliation of the Suez crisis in 1956, when the U.S. forced France and Britain to back down from a joint campaign with Israel against Egypt.

These leaders did not think that submerging their national histories and identities in a cosmopolitan, post-national Europe was either possible or desirable. They supported Europe because it seemed to be the best way forward for the peoples they led. For its part, the U.S. backed the project because a united Western Europe offered the best hope to stop communism in the short term and to prevent the recurrence of major European wars farther down the road. Read more…

 

 

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